Birger Lindberg Møller, Thies Gülck

Published in Trends in Plant Science

October 2021


Phytocannabinoids are bioactive terpenoids that were thought to be exclusive to Cannabis sativa, but have now also been discovered in Rhododendron species, some legumes, the liverwort genus Radula, and some fungi.

Many cannabinoids display promising non-hallucinogenic bioactivities that are determined by the variable nature of the side chain and prenyl group defined by the enzymes involved in their synthesis.

The biosynthesis of cannabinoids in C. sativa is fully elucidated, whereas the pathways in Rhododendron and Radula have only recently gained research attention.

Cannabinoid biosynthesis is highly modular, enabling use of the modules identified in synthetic biology-based combinatorial approaches, as demonstrated by the generation of new-to-nature cannabinoids in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

The ecological functions of cannabinoids include protection against UV light and desiccation, as well as in plant defense.

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DOI: 10.1016/j.tplants.2020.05.005


Gülck, T., & Møller, B. L. (2020). Phytocannabinoids: origins and biosynthesis. Trends in Plant Science.